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Monday, June 21, 2010

ORPHEUS ascending 1968 alan lorber LUSH STRING POP PSYCH LPCD torrent


New York east coast 2nd LP by Orpheus.
I culled this from the Canadian Stereo Pressing from 1968.
MGM records SE-4569.
I found a very concise review of the album on 'rate your music' which
I will post below. (I do agree with the review mostly, except I find some
of that sloppy drumming and loosy goose bass playing a bit charming. I fully
agree that some of the mix is muddy, but most was mixed very well and
is very strange to have the contrast. Maybe the had to piece together
some stretched out session dates?)

I enjoy this LP for the most part! It's got some Curt Boettcher
vibes and soundscapes, with the best of the 101 strings screeching
from one side with a good reverb trail.
HEAVY heavy I mean, with the street level Jewish New Yawka eastsider hipster
accents in the lyrics and poetic structure. It's not corny, a time and place
with some good meaning and heart.
The song "Don't be so serious" is meant to be a corn dog.
When they laid down "Magic Air", it's kind of a like a kosher approved drug rap on
some extra dimensional aspects, done almost mockingly by the
drummer of the LP, Harold Sandler.
Sandler righteously caused a stink to play on this LP, as he was left off the first, to be
sessioned on by the session man himself, Bernard Purdie.

One odd thing to note.
One of the corner stone members and very prolific on this album, has chosen
to distance himself from the Orpheus album released by Iris music.
It seems a legal matter, or just maybe some sort of internal
unresolved issues?
 Since we are sharing through
the lens of Universal Truth
and the translator english language so we can share trivial details due to public record
and have integrity due to fair use.
It states on 'h t t p : / / w w w orpheusreborn com / PicSht / 2ndAlbList  html'
:"Note: One of the founding members of Orpheus has requested that his name be removed from this page. As a courtsey to this individual we have complied with this request, despite the fact that his identity is a matter of public record. This individual has been designated (name deleted)."

Furthermore, this individual has asked that any audio clips of performances including his voice or his instrumental work, or of songs that he has written, be removed from this page. We have not, however, removed the clips of the commercially released songs below, because:
      our posting of these short clips constitutes "fair use;"
      similar clips of these performances are widely available on dozens, if not hundreds of web sites; and
      rights to these songs and / or performances reside with Iris Properties, Inc., not with the aforesaid individual, and we have posted
            these clips with the permission of the copyright holder.


REVIEW BY 'oldmanriver' on

In April of '68, while touring with his band in support of their debut album (released in January of that year), Orpheus leader Bruce Arnold was instructed by Alan Lorber to prepare songs for a follow-up LP. The sessions would take place at Mayfair Studios in New York and the resulting album would hit the stores that summer! Probably sensing the deadline would be tight, Lorber is said to have proposed that Arnold re-arrange two cover songs, (The Left Banke’s "Walk Away Renee" and The Zombies’ "She’s Not There"). These songs, together with some leftover material intended for the first album, would serve as the foundation for what would become Orpheus Ascending. 

The songs believed to be recorded for (but not appearing on) the first album were all Arnold-penned tracks. These included "I'll Fly", "So Far Away In Love" and "Just A Little Bit" (the latter two songs were written while he was performing in the folk duo, The Villagers). Arnold is quoted to have said he was somewhat surprised to find only nine tracks on the first album, which suggests these songs may have been recorded at Bell Sound Studios in 1967. If this is so, one could assume that Lorber intentionally saved this material for the second album. 

There is only one problem with this theory. The drums and bass on the aforementioned tracks are definitely not legendary session players, Bernard Purdie and Joe Macho Jr., (who both played on the first album). The sloppy cymbal-heavy drumming style is that of Harry Sandler (a self-professed novice) and the steady-stream-of-notes bass belongs to Eric Gulliksen. So it seems that somewhere along the line, Lorber decided to dump the two session players from the three backing tracks. But why? 

From recent information, which has appeared online, we now know that although Lorber had no intention of using either member on record, Gulliksen and Sandler had begun bitterly complaining to Arnold and as a result, the two were allowed to record. Thankfully by 1969, Arnold had become more confident in his authority and began to produce his music much the same way his followers, Donald Fagan and Walter Becker would in the coming years. 

Although Bernard Purdie and Joe Macho Jr. had an extremely tight and professional sound, the same, unfortunately, cannot be said about Harry Sandler and Eric Gulliksen. Orpheus Ascending still featured Lorber's brilliant orchestration coupled with Arnold's fabulous singing and intricate guitar work, but the album was too often muddled by a weak rhythm section. 

1. "I’ll Fly" – Written by Arnold and sung by Jack McKenes, this is a fantastic pop tune hampered by a sloppy rhythm section and muddy mix. First recorded as part of a nine-song demo in the summer of ’67, Gulliksen claims that acetates of the demo were shopped around to the major labels resulting in eight contract offers. The band, however, chose to audition their repertoire live for both Wes Farrell and Alan Lorber. Strong evidence suggests that the basic track for "I’ll Fly" was actually recorded during the sessions for the first Orpheus album. This would mean that an alternate version featuring session musicians, Joe Macho Jr. and Bernard Purdie might exist. I imagine this alternate version would be a vast improvement over the one included on the album. 

Sandler’s sporadic and nonsensical drum fills completely destroy the song’s straightforward beat and Gulliksen’s bass figures are dated - pure fluff. It’s no wonder Lorber opted for session musicians. That being stated, it’s a mystery why MGM decided not to issue this as a single in ‘68. In fact, "Orpheus Ascending" yielded no singles at all. My guess is that since MGM was still harvesting singles from the first album; Lorber may have opted to showcase this record as a stand-alone effort. 

2. "Just Got Back" – Thanks to friend and neighbor, Bruce Arnold, writer Steve Martin had three of his songs featured on the first Orpheus album. Arnold continued their collaboration with this cryptic rocker. Full of interesting references to time (i.e. the future, crystal ball, etc.), the song is difficult to decipher. But as with "Music Machine", (from the first album), Martin again appears to be referring to Orpheus with the lines, 

"Put it on the radio. Find a meaning for the word fantastic. Put it on the radio, singing: Mama’s learning how to be plastic." 

Arnold’s acoustic intro and distorted electric riff are a nice juxtaposition. 

3. "Mine’s Yours" – Arnold introduces listeners to a perfect example of what would become his trademark sound. A serious of unusual major seventh and augmented ninth chords delicately played with a unique finger-style all his own. A guitarist that puts Steven Stills in his place with a voice that rivals Sinatra. Gulliksen finds an equally unconventional bass line, which beautifully compliments Arnold’s guitar – evidence that he at least understood the balladeer side of Arnold. 

4. "Don’t Be So Serious" – This could have been a nice upbeat radio-friendly track if it had not been for Sandler’s embarrassingly sloppy drumming. Gulliksen tries to fit too many notes into his changes and would have better served the track by choosing a more conservative bass line. Lorber emulates George Martin’s contributions to The Beatles "Good Morning, Good Morning" by throwing in silly cartoon noises including, of course, a roar from Leo the Lion (MGM’s mascot). The song jokingly ends with a sample of Sandler attempting to sing the opening lyrics to "Magic Air". It appears someone in the control room was having fun at the drummer’s expense. 

5. "So Far Away In Love" – This track actually dates back to The Villagers era (pre-Orpheus). According to Arnold, a live version and at least one other studio version were recorded by the duo in 1966. The studio version, which briefly appeared on the Spectropop website, featured drums and bass (apparently not Sandler & Gulliksen). That version had a much softer feel and Arnold’s closing guitar piece was different - echoing Simon & Garfunkel’s "Scarborough Fair" although it most likely predated it. The album version is again ruined by Sandler who appears to be doing a bad Ginger Baker imitation. Even Baker would have preferred Bernard Purdie’s version. 

6. "She’s Not There" – The Zombies wrote intelligent pop songs that were largely ignored in their homeland. Although England’s mod crowd labeled them pretentious college boys, The Zombies soldiered on and created some fantastic music. Bruce Arnold’s music had a similar sophisticated quality and I imagine that’s one of the reasons Alan Lorber choose this song for Orpheus. 

Arnold handled the song’s arrangement and plays a fantastic guitar solo based on Gulliksen’s equally complicated baseline. The verses were given to McKenes while Arnold took the lead on the choruses. As with their version of "Walk Away Renee", vocal refrains were added by Arnold to showcase the group’s rich harmonies. 

7. "Love Over Here" – If "I’ll Fly" was intended to be this album’s "Can’t Find The Time", this track was it’s "I’ve Never Seen Love Like This". Arnold opens the songs by proclaiming the death of Martin’s fabled "Congress Alley". Apparently disillusioned with the bogus counter-culture scene, he wisely jumped ship. The song continues as a straight pop tune but not before Arnold and Lorber drive the point home by including another sample – this time from "Congress Alley". Listen closely and you can hear a slightly warped "hey, what a groovy day" before the first chorus begins. This album could very well be the first to contain recorded music samples. 

As always, Lorber adds lush instrumentation including harmonicas, timpani’s and some unidentified drones but unfortunately it all falls apart at the bridge. As on nearly every other track, Sandler amateurish drumming drags on the song. Another great track ruined. Along with "I’ll Fly", this song received moderate airplay on the East Coast. 

8. "Borneo" – Arnold admitted to stealing Jim Kweskin’s arrangement of this 1928 Walter Donaldson classic. In his CD liner notes, Lorber refers to it as a "live performance favorite", however fans I’ve spoke with don’t recall having heard it at their shows. According to Arnold, McKenes plays the Flatt & Scruggs-esque banjo piece at the end. It’s interesting to note that Orpheus is actually given credit as composers. Overall, a nice departure for the group and proof that Arnold and McKenes had not strayed far from their folk roots. 

9. "Just A Little Bit" – Written by Arnold when he was only 17 years old, the lyrics display what is a remarkably deep sentiment for a teenager. In the liner notes for 1995’s "The Best of Orpheus", Arnold comments, "As a kid I was looking to fall in love and write love songs, fashioning my desires of a relationship." 

Although not quite as lyrically mature as "Mine’s Yours", the song still features beautiful singing by both Arnold and McKenes, (whose trademark "paintbrush stroke" vocals are wisely mixed down by Lorber). Sandler’s drums are mercifully relegated to the bridges, which are abrupt thanks to Lorber’s screechy violins. A revised mix by an outside producer would undoubtedly yield better results. 

10. "Walk Away Renee" – Arnold "Orpheus-ized" this Left Banke classic. New York DJ’s jumped on the Orpheus version and its heavy rotation during the fall of ’68 defined the band for the uninitiated. Many listeners were unaware that the same group did "Can’t Find The Time". 

The intro features Arnold playing his unique brand of unusual chords in a chunky style that recalls the opening to "Bye Bye Love". His bell-like electric guitar adds highlights to the chord changes, which somewhat mask Sandler’s messy drum fills. The strong vocals by Arnold, McKenes and Gulliksen give an added dimension to the song despite the fact that they boldly discard the verses. The Left Banke’s version seems puny in comparison. 

11. "Roses" – Sandler and Gulliksen were both asked to contribute one song to this album. Gulliksen’s "Roses" is a curious piece that mixes Arnold’s trademark guitar chords (played by Gulliksen) with lyrics that are a flowery take off of Sinatra’s "It Was Very Good Year". "Roses" is about as dated a song as Orpheus would ever record, which strengthens my appreciation of Arnold and Martin’s writing ability. Although I give Gulliksen credit for giving the instrumentation a Bruce Arnold-feel, I would have liked to hear him do something a bit less lilting. 

12. "Magic Air" – If you weren’t irritated enough with Sandler’s drumming on this album, wait ‘til you hear his singing! This was his moment to shine and he doesn’t even seem to be trying. Listen for his New England pronunciation of the word "Garden". It is assumed that at some point in their childhoods, the other members of Orpheus had equally thick accents. What makes them different from Sandler is that they wisely realized the rest of the world considers it comical. Anyone from New England who wants to be taken seriously should loose the accent. 

I’ve concluded that Harry Sandler is either an ignorant fool or an arrogant showman – probably both. His contributions to Orpheus were so out of place, I’m amazed that Arnold didn’t fire him sooner. Sandler was said to "throw out his drumsticks during songs" and Gulliksen called him "the consummate entertainer." Although I’m sure it impressed 14 year-old girls, Orpheus was not that kind of band and I’m sad to say Sandler’s antics would have probably ruined the experience of seeing Orpheus live – at least for me. 

Amazingly though, "Magic Air" is not a total loss. In fact, the latter half of the song is quite breathtaking. It begins with the chorus, which I suspect was actually written by Arnold, (as he does sing it) and continues with what sounds like all four members singing harmony. Lorber’s ethereal orchestration is complimented by Collin Walcott’s tamboura and a piano, which adds the highlights usually reserved for Arnold’s electric guitar. The song builds with Bruce’s voice climbing up a step and as Lorber’s strings enter, the voices multiply over each other creating what is, even today, a stunning conclusion. It was as if Arnold and Lorber threw everything they had into Sandler’s laughable effort, and in doing so, managed to resurrect the album (albeit at the eleventh hour).

Title: Ascending
Label: MGM
Record Number: SE-4569
Release Date: 1968
Personnel (in alphabetical order): (BRUCE ARNOLD), Eric Gulliksen, Jack McKennes, Harry Sandler
Producer: Alan Lorber - to read his bio, click here
Engineer: Eddie Smith
Recorded at: Mayfair Studios, NYC
Peak Billboard Chart Position: #159

Note: This album reached No. 10 in the 1969 Playboy Magazine Jazz & Pop Poll, Vocal Album of the Year Category.
  Click here to see the complete poll results.

Walk Away Renée was included in the anthologies
  Bosstown Sound - 1968: The Music And The Time  -  Ace Big Beat No. CDWIK2 167
    Click here to read the album notes;
  Parade Of Broken Hearts 2  -  Iris Music Group IMG-331
I'll Fly was included in the anthology
  Get Easy! Sunshine Pop Collection  -  Universal Jazz No. 0440 0391912
Just Got Back was included in the anthology
  Boston Sound 1968 Revisited Vol. 2  -  Iris Music Group IMG-227
Just A Little Bit was included in the anthology
  Fire On Route 10, Volume 2  -  Iris Music Group IMG-530
Walk Away Renée, She's Not There, Borneo and Roses were included in the compilation
  The Best Of Orpheus - Iris Music Group IMG-319

All performances copyright 1968 by Alan Lorber Productions, Inc. / Iris Properties, Inc.
All songs © 1968 by Interval Music, Inc. / Iris Properties, Inc. except
No. 6: CPE Music / Marquis Music, and No. 10: Alley Music Corp. / Trio Music, Inc.

"Orpheus" is a Registered Trade Mark of the Iris Music Group; Reg. No. 3,466,258.
All rights reserved. 

The following review has been excerpted from an article entitled Boston Groups - Second Time Around,

...With a highly successful tour of the United States under their belts, Orpheus is climbing the charts with their second LP which is titled Orpheus Ascending. Their first album, Orpheus, did extremely well in sales not only in the New England area but also throughout the entire United States. That LP contains such beautiful music that I never thought it would be possible for Orpheus to generate another album which would surpass or even equal their first; yet Harry Sandler, Jack McKennes, (name deleted) and John Eric (Snake) Gulliksen have done just that. The group s material is basically all original with the exception of two cuts, She's Not There and Walk Away Renée, both of which are done in unique and different arrangements as only Orpheus can do. Perhaps the most beautiful cut on their new album is Roses, a soft and tender ballad of love with the sound of the ocean in the background.

Harry Sandler, the percussion man for Orpheus, surprises us all on this new LP by singing his first composition entitled
Magic AirJust A Little Bit, another beautiful ballad by (name deleted  ... (BRUCE ARNOLD)), creates an air of love and warmth which can only be done by Orpheus. Believe me, this recording (the entire album) is a masterpiece of music.

By Charles G. Martignette, Jr.

Some words

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